- Hardcover: 320 pages
- Publisher: Putnam Adult (April 12, 2012)
- ISBN-10: 0399157581
- Source: Publisher
Nell Slattery is only one of two survivors of a horrible plane crash. When she awakens in the hospital she is confused, devoid of all her memories. With the help of her family, some members with their own agenda, Nell pieces through her memories with the aid of music and photographs given to her by members of her family. Trusting the information and assistance given to her by her sister and business partner, Rory; her mother; her best friend Samantha; and her husband Peter.
Against the advice of her family, she agrees to work on a story about her recovery with a local reporter. He, shockingly, is the only individual honest enough to give Nell an accurate look at her life before the accident. Eventually, bits and pieces of her memories start to reappear and Nell is shocked to learn they don’t mesh with what her family has shared with her. As she begins to form sense of self-identity, the new individual she becomes is quite different than her previous self. Before the crash, her life seemed to be devoid of fun, excitement…color! Additionally, her family, albeit under the guise that it is in her best interest, also try to meld the “new” Nell to be different that the individual she was before. They withhold information from her, information that will have a resounding impact on the relationships they have with her.
A key theme discussed in The Song Remains the Same is change. As Nell regains her memory, she learns of quite a deal of turmoil in her life growing up, specifically surrounding her father. An artist like she was, they had a bond like none other. He would frequently disappear from her life for months on end, yet when he would return she would welcome him with open arms, as if nothing had changed. It was if her own identity was created and influenced by his existence.
“How long had I let him define me? Even when, as an adult, I pretended he hadn’t…Forever. It seems that I had let him define me for just about forever. Whichever version of myself I was embodying at whichever moment, really, weren’t they all in reaction to him?”
Then, when he didn’t return, her life was shattered, upended. Now, decades later, Nell is forced to go through a similar experience in regaining her memory. As she heals, she’s extremely upset to learn that her father, her beacon in life, didn’t make an attempt to come out of hiding to see her after the accident:
I had fallen from the sky and my dad hadn’t come to try to heal me. Hadn’t abandoned his selfish need for solitude to wander out into the bright lights of the world and rescue his little girl.
It is only when Nell realizes that she, herself, must be the one responsible for her recovery that she truly begins to heal:
“I’m done with people telling me their stories. Turns out, everyone has their own perspective of your life, but that doesn’t mean that it’s the right one.”
Ultimately, using her own advice “scars give you character”, Nell is able to define herself, without the advice, input, and suggestions of those around her.
One of my favorite things about The Song Remains the Same was how music became a key part of Nell’s recovery. It was music, songs on a playlist her sister Rory created for her, that really aided Nell in regaining her memory. The title/heading of each chapter is the name of a song Nell loved growing up. I couldn’t help but find myself humming each song as I turned the pages. Who can’t relate to a song bringing back memories, fond or not, when they listen to a song from their youth or childhood? Who doesn’t still have a collection of mix tapes they created in their teens? How can you not leap back in time the minute you hear those songs play?
Scotch creates a truly sympathetic character in Nell. You can’t help but want to aid in her in healing, to cry in devastation when she recalls a painful memory. Nell’s character also adds a bit of humor and sarcasm to a story that could be dark and depressing. Without her wit, I think this book would have a completely different feel to it.
Another thing I truly appreciated about this book was that it went against all formulas for books of a similar nature. Nell doesn’t wake up to a flawless life, doesn’t gain immediate happiness. Instead, the process she goes through as she recovers is genuine, believable, and an extremely rewarding to experience as a reader.
Bottom line: The Song Remains the Same is an incredibly thought-provoking, funny, emotional read. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll scream, but at the end you’ll be rewarded with a completely satisfied feeling, a warmth that creeps into you soul. Highly recommended.